US firm SpaceX has failed in its third attempt to retrieve a booster rocket intact, after a successful launch.
The rocket made it back to an ocean platform but landed “too hard” to survive, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.
The capsule borne by the rocket is heading to the International Space Station (ISS), carrying groceries – including an Italian espresso maker.
By retrieving rockets and recycling them, Nasa contractor SpaceX hopes to slash the cost of space travel.
A later tweet by Mr Musk said the rocket had apparently “landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing”.
Images accompanying the tweet appeared to show the rocket toppling over on the platform.
The firm hopes that a successful landing will demonstrate that normally disposable rockets can be refurbished and reused.
It could also point to new ways of bringing spacecraft back down to Earth in general.
In January, the first attempt to land the leftover rocket on the ocean platform also failed because of a hard landing.
A second attempt, in February, was scuppered by choppy waters.
The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the capsule nicknamed Dragon, launched from Cape Canaveral air force station in Florida on Tuesday afternoon.
The supply ship, carrying more than 4,000 lbs (1,800 kg) of groceries and equipment for the orbiting laboratory, is expected to reach its destination on Friday.
SpaceX was hired by US space agency Nasa to supply the ISS, after the retirement of the space shuttle.